Letting Spirituality Influence Your New Year’s Resolutions

With 2021 (finally) making its grand entrance this weekend, I doubt any of us are hesitant to kiss 2020 goodbye. We’re ready for a new year that will, hopefully, prove better than the last. As a result, the worldwide trend to set New Year’s resolutions every December feels a bit more frantic and even overwhelming. We want to put 2020 so far behind us that we tend to overshoot a little bit.

You Can Find a Balance Through Spirituality.

Newsflash: January 1st will not endow us with sudden motivation to exercise, cut sugar, break up with Netflix, volunteer, floss, and give up social media all at once. In fact, when we try to completely transform our lives with unrealistic resolutions, by January 15th we have reverted back to old habits and we feel terrible about ourselves.

Healthy striving to become better is beneficial, but it’s tough to find a balance. We’re either beating ourselves up for not being good enough or expecting nothing of ourselves. Plus, how do we even get our goals to stick? It seems that good habits take seconds to break, yet bad habits take months.

Introducing spirituality to your resolution-making can help you find a good balance. Since your spiritual side is significant to you, letting it shape your resolutions provides a nice framework for meaningful goals. You’ll also feel a deeper desire to keep your resolutions.

Everyone does New Year’s resolutions differently, so it’s important to find what works for you. Here are some general ideas to get you started.

Is it a Good Idea to Make New Year’s Resolutions?

We still don’t know what 2021 will bring, and extreme resolutions now may cause more disappointment in a few months when another trip is canceled or work stays online for another six months. Since this coming year is so unpredictable, a good place to start is to ask yourself if you are in a position to make resolutions. What is your spiritual pulse–do you need to change your spiritual practice right now? Are you financially stable and physically and emotionally healthy? Have your stress levels normalized to a manageable state? If you don’t feel like you can or should make a change, that’s okay.

If you feel like change is calling, start with spiritual intentions to guide your resolutions. Intentions are overarching feelings, traits, or qualities that you want to develop. Focus on a few, or even one, intention(s). After that, you can set specific goals to help you achieve your intentions.

I’ve compiled some ideas that could fall under your 2021 spiritual intention umbrella. Pick and choose what works for you, and don’t be afraid to branch out to come up with your own ideas.

Make Resolutions For You, Others, and God.

Your spirituality is a product of your relationships–your relationships with yourself, others, and the higher power in your life. Focusing on those three areas will help fulfill your spiritual intentions for 2021.

It’s hard to become better if you aren’t taking care of yourself, so I recommend starting with some resolutions for your own wellbeing. This might look like:

  • Cooking something new (or cooking at all).
  • Cleaning or tidying up.
  • Keeping up with your inbox.
  • Setting social media limits on your phone.
  • Exercising to feel better, not to reach a number on the scale.
  • Learning a new instrument.
  • Practicing gratitude.
  • Dedicating time to your hobbies.

Humans benefit from connecting with other people. Once you have made goals for yourself, you can turn outward to others. Make resolutions to brighten the lives of those around you. Some ideas include:

  • Picking a day of the week to call your grandparents.
  • Saying thank you often.
  • Giving a generous tip.
  • Choosing not to take offense.
  • Judging less.
  • Complimenting strangers.
  • Forgiving someone else.
  • Supporting local businesses.
  • Recycling and using reusable grocery bags. (You want to be kind to the Earth, too!)

You might also want to set goals to strengthen your relationship with the divinity in your life. This could look like:

  • Meditating.
  • Writing your spiritual thoughts in a journal.
  • Spending time in nature.
  • Praying.
  • Reading spiritual books.

Tips For Forming Habits.

Once you’ve made resolutions that are realistic and achievable, how do you keep them? Here are some helpful ideas.

  1. Remind yourself that you are in control. You are not a slave to Disney+. No one is forcing chocolate cake down your throat three meals a day. Sometimes it helps just to realize that you have the power to choose. This alone usually isn’t enough to change habits, but it keeps you from feeling powerless.
  2. Write your New Year’s Resolutions down. Keep them in a place where you will see them, like on your bathroom mirror or bedside table. No need to make it fancy if you don’t want to–although you can find plenty of fun worksheets online.
  3. Focus on one or two at a time. You don’t have to jump into all your resolutions right now. Choose a couple to work on for now, and save the others for later. Try to simplify them as much as possible so you can build a habit.
  4. Attach the behavior to something already in your routine. This is a form of accountability that doesn’t involve guilt-tripping. If you want to exercise every morning, start by doing a pushup after you brush your teeth. Then two pushups. Before you know it, you can get your whole workout in, right there on your bathroom floor.
  5. Reward yourself immediately after you meet your goals. This doesn’t mean you deserve a bowl of ice cream every time you write down something you’re thankful for. Instead, literally give yourself a fist bump immediately after you put down the pen, even if it feels silly. This helps you rewire your brain to remember the behavior. (Think about it–the same thing happens when you check your social media accounts in the morning. Your brain releases dopamine when you see the tiny red dot telling you someone liked your post. You then want to check it again the next morning, and the next.)
  6. If you’re not reaching a goal, adjust it. When we fail, our tendency is to completely give up. What if, instead, you just changed the goal? If you want to eat four vegetables in every meal but you’re throwing out seven pounds of produce a week, why not just start with one vegetable in one meal? Be patient with yourself.

These tools will set you up for success. New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be a lost cause. Start with your spiritual goals, and maintain your sense of spirituality throughout. You can make your life better–just stay realistic, simple, and kind to yourself in the process.